The Red Sox used the power of the long ball to defeat the Twins at Fenway Park on Saturday evening. Wearing their marathon-inspired City Connect uniforms for the first time in 2022, Boston bested Minnesota by a final score of 4-0 to improve to 4-4 on the year.
Matched up against Twins starter Sonny Gray to begin things in the second of this four-game series, Alex Verdugo kicked off the scoring in the bottom of the second inning.
Moments after J.D. Martinez drew a leadoff walk, Verdugo swung at a 2-2, 92 mph sinker from Gray and deposited it 437 feet over the Sox’ bullpen and into the right field bleachers for his third home run of the season.
Verdugo’s two-run blast, which left his bat at a blistering 108.6 mph, gave Boston an early 2-0 lead. An inning later, with Josh Winder now pitching for Minnesota, Enrique Hernandez reached base via a one-out double down the left field line. After Rafael Devers grounded out to advance Hernandez to third base, Xander Bogaerts came through with a two-run shot of his own.
Coming into play Saturday in the midst of a 2-for-18 rut at the plate, Bogaerts broke out of his slump by unloading on an 0-1, 94 mph fastball from Winder and sent it exactly 400 feet over the Green Monster for his first big fly of 2022.
Bogaerts’ two-run homer put the Sox up, 4-0. While the Boston lineup was busy establishing that lead, Tanner Houck was putting together a solid outing on the mound.
Houck, making his second start of the season, kept Minnesota off the board while scattering just two hits and three walks to go along with four strikeouts over 5 2/3 impressive innings of work.
The right-hander struggled with his command early on, but — with the help of some double plays — was able to settle into a groove and retire nine of the final 11 batters he faced. With two outs in the top half of the sixth, Houck issued a four-pitch walk to Luis Arraez, which is how his day came to a close.
Finishing with a final pitch count of 89 (50 strikes), Houck relied on his four-seam fastball 34% of the time he was on the mound Saturday and averaged 94.5 mph with the pitch. The 25-year-old also earned his first winning decision of the season.
Matt Strahm got the first call out of the Red Sox bullpen from manager Alex Cora and stranded the lone runner he inherited by getting Jorge Polanco to fly out to Jackie Bradley Jr. in right field. The lefty also recorded the first two outs of the seventh before yielding a hard-hit double to Trevor Larnach.
At that point, Cora opted to turn things over to Garrett Whitlock, as he did in Detroit this past Tuesday. This time around, Whitlock was once again efficient. The righty reliever ended the seventh by fanning Gio Urshela on three pitches, struck out the side while stranding two runners in the eighth, and worked his way around a two-out hit in the ninth to close out a 4-0 shutout victory.
Some notes from this win:
Red Sox second baseman Trevor Story went 1-for-3 on Saturday. His lone hit, a fourth-inning single, came off Josh Winder and had an exit velocity of over 103 mph.
The Red Sox recorded three double plays on Saturday: Tanner Houck struck out Carlos Correa for the second out of the first inning, then Christian Vazquez gunned down Jorge Polanco at second base for the third and final out. In the third inning, Ryan Jeffers grounded into a 5-4-3 double play. And in the fifth, Gio Urshela grounded into a 6-4-3 twin killing.
Garrett Whitlock working on three days rest on Saturday: 2 1/3 innings pitched, 2 hits, 0 runs, one walk, and five strikeouts on 30 pitches (23 strikes). He topped out at 97.3 mph with his four-seam fastball.
Next up: Ober vs. Wacha
The Red Sox will rock their City Connect uniforms once again and go for their second straight win over the Twins on Sunday afternoon. Michael Wacha will get the ball for Boston and he will be opposed by fellow right-hander Bailey Ober for Minnesota.
First pitch from Fenway Park is scheduled for 1:35 p.m. eastern time on NESN and MLB Network.
(Picture of Alex Verdugo: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)